Governance Impact Statement 2022-23 

A governing board has three core functions:

  • To ensure clarity of vision, ethos, and strategic direction
  • Challenging school leaders ensuring high educational standards for the school and its pupils, and for the effective performance management of staff
  • Overseeing financial performance and making sure money is well spent

In addition, governors are responsible for overseeing and approving a programme of internal scrutiny to provide independent assurance that its financial and non-financial controls and risk management procedures are operating effectively.

Strategic Direction: What difference has governance made?

  • Governors supported and challenged the Headteacher and Senior Leadership in the development and delivery of innovative developments in the curriculum, improved community links and enhancement of extra-curricular opportunities, digital literacy, employability skills and aspirations for students.
  • Governors approved the annual School Development Plan. They used this, and the school’s Risk Register, to guide their focus during the year, ensuring that leaders reflected and reported on the progress of objectives, considered steps needed to meet the objectives over the remainder of the year. This helped leaders to maintain a focus on the “big picture” in addition to managing day-to-day operational matters.
  • Governors influenced agendas and discussion at meetings to ensure that important topics were raised in a timely manner, with discussion on a wide range of school activities both underway and proposed. Governors challenged leaders to assess the impact of any strategies implemented and to explore even better ways to achieve the school’s goals.
  • The Chair and the Vice-Chair of Governors continued to talk regularly with the Headteacher, providing a sounding board and an “arm’s length” perspective useful for reflection and planning.

Quality of Education and Staff Performance: What difference has governance made?

  • Governors continued to request summaries and ask questions about delivery of teaching, addressing attainment and progress gaps, and how the impact of strategies will be measured and reviewed, including in relation to pupils with special educational needs. Governors bear in mind the local and national contextual issues when reviewing progress data, but still hold the leadership team to account in delivering a consistently good standard of academic education and pastoral support. Governors requested that delivery of the science curriculum be added to the school development plan for the year, to ensure that the steps being taken by the science team were seen as important and reported to the governing body.
  • A key focus for the year was implementing the pastoral curriculum for the four pillars of character which are intended to set the students up for success in their lives beyond The Swanage School. The governors were pleased to hear about the training and materials developed for Crew Leaders. The governors also received an end of year report assessing the outcomes for students and the areas where the programme could be evolved for next year.
  • Governors kept a close eye on the equipment and training that was delivered during the year, ensuring this was in accordance with the plans that had been agreed with Senior Leadership. Governors were shown examples of the work done by all year groups using the new creative digital media suite and were pleased to note that the assessments for the qualification at KS4 were producing good results, and that the relevant skills were being embedded into the KS3 curriculum.
  • Over the course of the year governors discussed with senior leaders the evolution of the pastoral and academic leadership team’s responsibilities and accountabilities. Following discussion with staff, agreed changes have been rolled out, and these changes are expected to improve consistency of approach, accountability for delivery and ultimately outcomes for students.
  • Governors took a new approach to understanding provision for Pupil Premium students. Case studies were requested, using criteria set by the governors. The link governor then sought information about the provision in place (inside and outside lessons) for a student meeting those criteria and presented an anonymized summary to governors. This helped the governors to understand the range of challenges faced by Pupil Premium students and the approaches used in practice to help to improve outcomes for those students. Governors were pleased to see that the provision did match the strategy statement, and noted that the range of personal circumstances and attitudes to education meant that the strategies are of mixed effectiveness. Overall, the governors were satisfied with provision for Pupil Premium students, noting particularly that the provision of chrome books for all students in Years 7 and 8 was effective.
  • Governors also used anonymized case studies to review provision for students with special educational needs and disabilities. Again the governors were pleased that the provision demonstrated for the case studies matched what the school expected for those students.
  • Noting that The Swanage School is a popular choice for students with extra needs, governors supported the Senior Leadership team in trying to resist Dorset Council’s unreasonable numbers of placements of high-needs students at The Swanage School. The particular concern is that The Swanage School does not have budget to provide what is set out in Education Health and Care Plans for all the students requested to be placed at The Swanage School, alongside making appropriate provision for other students. Nonetheless, Dorset Council continues to place a substantially higher proportion of high-needs students at The Swanage School than at other mainstream secondary schools in Dorset.
  • Governors kept an eye on the support for more vulnerable students and the well-being of staff, ensuring that appropriate support was in place. Acknowledging the national increase in mental health issues following the covid pandemic, the link governor for mental health has helped to ensure that this remains a consideration in strategic planning and allocation of resources at a time when there are many competing calls. The lead governor for safeguarding has deep knowledge of the wider system charged with safeguarding and supporting children and uses this to support the school’s safeguarding lead effectively – for example in developing and updating policies and ensuring compliance with relevant requirements. The lead governor for safeguarding meets termly with the safeguarding lead and is also the lead governor for attendance, ensuring joined up governor oversight of these, often related, areas.
  • Regular monitoring visits by the link governor for health & safety has given confidence that the school premises are safe and compliant, and that necessary remedial works are scheduled, and that the school has appropriate processes for dealing with and reviewing any accidents or near-misses.
  • Governors contributed to new teacher appointments by sitting on interview panels.
  • As policies came up for review, Committees considered whether they continue to have a purpose and are effective.

Financial Performance and Best Value: What difference has governance made?

  • Regular monitoring of budget variances, key performance indicators and cashflow ensure school finances are understood and managed proactively. A monthly finance report is produced by the Business Manager and circulated for governor scrutiny outside of regular committee meetings.
  • Governor expertise and questioning have assisted in matters relating to school premises, in refining the three-year budget, in ensuring that the school benefits from available funding and in ensuring that plans are in place for the destruction of records in accordance with the data retention policy.
  • Governors have ensured the school’s financial procedures and policies continue to comply with rules set by the Educations & Skills Funding Agency and other bodies.

Audit, Scrutiny and Oversight: What difference has governance made?

The Audit and Risk Committee has:

  • Directed the Trust’s programme of internal scrutiny
  • Ensured risks are being addressed appropriately
  • Reported on the adequacy of the Trust internal control framework
  • Conducted ongoing review of the school’s risk register thereby ensuring that risks are appropriately prioritised and actioned.
  • Undertaken a review of internal and external auditor arrangements including the re-tendering of auditor’s contracts.

Committees assessed how well risks on the Risk Register are being managed, reinforcing the importance of actively managing risks to reduce the likelihood and impact of an identified risk occurring.

Governors have reviewed concerns and complaints, and have convened panels to review exclusions as appropriate over the course of the year.

Details of our governance arrangements, the composition of our Board of Governors, meeting attendance and minutes can be found on the governance page of our website.